Tayte Pollmann’s Tuesday Trail Tips series of articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This past Saturday, I awoke from a two hour anesthesia nap in the London Independent Hospital and saw my left leg hidden from knee to toes in a white cast several inches thick. I took deep breaths to calm my chattering teeth and tensing muscles, symptoms induced by the effects of anesthesia. I had finally done it. After a year of struggling to fix my slowly degenerating Achilles tendon, I scheduled surgery with one of the best Achilles tendon specialists in the world. My newly reconstructed Achilles was hiding somewhere behind the thick cast and I smiled because I knew I was again on the path to running strong.
Now, several days after the surgery, I’m already excitedly thinking about training, even if I first have to learn to walk comfortable before taking my first running step. For now, I take a 5 minute walk in crutches every hour, perform several sets of core exercises, and take plenty of rest & relaxation (Netflix marathons and catching up on reading are part of this plan). Although my physical training may not be what I’m used to, the experience of this surgery has given me a chance to reflect on the importance of mental training. Even without proper use of my legs, I’m discovering that mental training is worth practicing as a means to discover our “why” for running and to cultivate our love for the sport even when we’re facing hard times such as injuries. Listed below are three ways I’m currently training my mind to be a stronger runner.
Reading “The Happy Runner”
Written by trail runners Megan Roche & David Roche, I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for some good laughs and insights into the mental highs and lows of running/life in general. One of my favorite takeaways from the book so far is the Roche’s why for running, described as the “unconditional love and daily purpose that comes with complete, long-term commitment.” Understanding running as a long-term commitment, full of highs and lows, helps me understand my current injury as a small piece in a much larger running career. Whatever the current stage in our running, “The Happy Runner,” teaches us to accept and enjoy each moment unconditionally.
Listen to the ActivAcuity App
ActivAcuity was designed by one of my good friends, Terry Chiplin, and it is a series of audio recorded programs designed to teach runners how to train mentally. The app consists of 7 segments, Focus, Confidence, Positive Imagery, Commitment, Creating Intentions, Healing, and Competition, and each segment is further divided into more specific programs and sessions. The app is a great place to start if you’re new to the concept of mental training and it is endorsed by several elite athletes including Joseph Gray, Sage Canaday and Melody Fairchild. I find myself more relaxed and learning something new after each session.
Learn from the Greats
Almost all of the top elite runners will stress the importance of mental fitness as part of their success. Eliud Kipchoge, world record holder in the marathon, wrote on his Twitter, “If you don’t rule your mind, your mind will rule you.” Roger Bannister, first human being to run under 4 minutes for the mile said, “It is the brain, not the heart or lungs, that is the critical organ.” I’m learning from these athletes that there is always more room to improve mentally.